Saturday :: Oct 9, 2004

Gallup Post-Debate Poll Gives Nod To Kerry, Even With A GOP Sample Bias

by Steve

Some more post-debate information:

Our friends at Gallup say that their instant poll showed a much closer result this time, with Kerry winning by only two points, 47%-45%. I actually agree with Gallup on this one. I think that Kerry didnít do as well with his focus and sharpness in some of his answers, whereas Bush handled himself and his weak hand on domestic issues better than I expected. Yet I am harder on Kerry than many others, as Iíll touch on below with some of the other post-debate reaction.

Kerryís advantage is that he has between now and the last debate, which will be totally on domestic issues, to review his answers last night and improve where he needs to. The jobs report and the rest of the domestic failings and broken promises of the Bush Administration need to be hammered over and over again.

Many of the commenters on the cable chat fests said that Bush was playing to his base and has seemingly given up on appealing to undecideds and swing voters. Kerry needs to factor that in when plotting strategy for Wednesday night. As proof that Kerry is doing better with swing and Indies, note that Gallupís poll indicates that Kerry had a 16% margin over Bush last night amongst Indies as to who did better in the debate. Also, to their credit, note Gallupís candor right up front about the GOP bias in their sample last night, which indicates that if the sample was weighted to be more representative of the electorate weíll see on November 2, Gallupís results would have shown a greater margin for Kerry.

The reason the overall figures show only a slight advantage for Kerry, despite his greater margin among his own party and winning the independent vote, is that the sample of viewers had more Republicans (38%) than Democrats (32%) or independents (30%). Also, the sample of viewers support Bush over Kerry in the presidential race by 50% to 46%.

And in another piece of good news for Kerry, note that this GOP-biased sample came away from the debate with a better impression of Kerry on domestic issues than Bush, and with better favorable/unfavorable margins for Kerry than Bush.

Viewers said they thought Bush would handle the economy better than Kerry, by 50% to 44% before the debate. Afterward, viewers split evenly, with 49% each choosing Kerry and Bush.

Overall, 38% of viewers said they felt more favorably toward Kerry as a result of the debate, while 20% felt less favorably -- a net positive of 18 points. By comparison, Bush received a net positive of 11 points -- 31% of viewers said they felt more favorably and 20% less favorably toward Bush because of the debate.

By a 17-point margin (54%-37%), those polled said that Kerry expressed himself more clearly than Bush. All in all, given the makeup of this sample, this means that going into the third debate, which is supposed to be on domestic issues only, Kerry is well-positioned to reach for undecideds and swing voters whereas Bush is not, and probably by design.

More reaction from the media:

A Washington Post piece reports that audience members inside the hall remained largely unchanged about their preference.

From Adam Nagourney and Robin Toner of the New York Times:

(W)hen a voter challenged Mr. Kerry to pledge on television not to raise taxes on families making less than $200,000, he walked toward a camera and stared into it. "Absolutely," he said. "Right into the camera, yes. I am not going to raise taxes."

Mr. Bush, whose uneven performance last week had stirred concern among Republicans, particularly as post-debate polls showed him losing his lead to Mr. Kerry, seemed hesitant and spoke loudly when he took the stage. But the president, who seemed distracted and fidgety in the Sept. 30 debate, grew increasingly comfortable through the night, though at times he flashed glances of anger at Mr. Kerry that were reminiscent of his demeanor the week before. At one point, Mr. Bush mistakenly referred to Mr. Kerry as "Senator Kennedy."

By contrast, Mr. Kerry seemed assured and comfortable for most of the night, particularly as the discussion moved from foreign policy and into domestic policy for the second half of the debate. The one moment when Mr. Kerry seemed strained was when he sought to explain his position on abortion.

From Todd Purdum, NYT:

Mr. Kerry generally seemed to be more in command of his brief, more confident in demeanor and more intent than Mr. Bush to reach across partisan boundaries as he invoked the leadership of Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower and talked of the importance of balancing budgets. Mr. Bush seemed more content to play to his conservative base.

NYT Lead Editorial:

Mr. Kerry demonstrated, at the very minimum, a stature that was equal to the president's. If Mr. Bush was hoping to recover all the ground he lost last week, he failed in his mission.

The president seemed to fall back frequently on name-calling, denouncing his opponent as a liberal and a tool of the trial lawyers. "The president's just trying to scare," Mr. Kerry said. It will be another few weeks before we see how well that works.

San Francisco Chronicle Lead Editorial:

Bush tried to joke about his awkwardness in the first debate, saying one of Kerry's answers "almost makes me want to scowl." He settled down a bit as the night went on, but never seemed quite comfortable in the town-hall studio setting.

Kerry, by contrast, fielded questions with authority and a controlled intensity. He confronted Bush without coming across as strident or disrespectful.

A challenger's burden is always to close the stature gap against an incumbent president. Kerry had the additional challenge of overcoming his tendency to be long-winded or aloof on the stump, and the GOP's campaign to caricature him as wishy-washy.

Kerry passed those tests.

The contrast in St. Louis was not nearly as profound as it was in the first debate. But once again, Kerry more than held his own against the 43rd president.

And lastly, Editor and Publisher gives a good summary of what several papers had to say.

Steve :: 8:45 AM :: Comments (22) :: Digg It!